20 old pictures of women with tattoos

20 old pictures of women with tattoos

Tattoos are nothing special these days. But in the 19th and early 20th centuries, body jewelry was a sensation. Seafarers imported tattoos from foreign cultures into the western world. Long before “ass antlers” and “tribals”, tattooed people were a guarantee for bulging eyes and stunned looks – especially when they were women.


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A correspondingly large attraction were the so-called “tattooed ladies”: women from the working class who displayed their tattooed bodies. What was a way of making a living for women was of course unheard of in the prudish Victorian age. Hard to imagine today, but the sight of the following women was a real scandal at the time:

1. Maude Wagner, 1908. The circus artist made a name for herself as one of the first professional tattoo artists in the USA.

Maud Wagner, America’s first female tattoo artist. 1907 from r / OldSchoolCool

2. Most of the tattooed ladies worked in the circus.

3. Part of the tattoo show were often so-called “Captivity Narratives” (Eng. “Captivity stories”). The women pretended that they had been captured by Indians and had their tattoos taken prisoner.

4. The artistry of the motifs comes into its own on this post-colored picture.

5. Floral, religious, and nautical motifs were particularly popular.

6. Because of their wicked and exotic reputation, tattooed ladies earned a lot more than their male colleagues.

7. Betty Broadbent, 1939. Even as a young girl she was enthusiastic about tattoos.

8. The confident exotic women attracted a large audience.

Woman with tattoo’s -1956 from r / pics

9. Artoria Gibbons, 1920s. George Washington, the first President of the USA, is emblazoned on the tattoo artist’s chest.

10. As a special eye-catcher, the women often had large motifs on their back and chest.

May 11, Vandermark, 1920s. May also worked at the circus.

12. Nora Hildebrandt, early 19th century – one of the first tattooed ladies.

13. Artoria Gibbons, 1920s. The artist with da Vinci’s “Last Supper” on her back was one of the last successful tattooed ladies.

14. A full body tattoo then cost about $ 30 and took just under two months to complete.

15. Individual tattoos cost less than a dollar – a worthwhile investment considering how successful tattoo shows with women have been.

Tattooed lady 1940s from r / OldSchoolCool

16. In addition to circus shows, the women also appeared in so-called “Dime Museums” (dt. “Groschen-Museen”): facilities with light entertainment, aimed primarily at the working class.

17. The German Emma Schuster had the stage name “La bella Angora” and was considered by many to be the “Queen of the tattooed”.

18. A tattooed lady with an umbrella, circa 1900s.

19. The swan on this artist’s chest is a special eye-catcher.

20. The era of the tattooed ladies ended in the 1950s when circus shows and dime museums went out of fashion.

Back then a scandal, now normal: Nowadays over half of all tattoo wearers are female. The sight of the tattooed ladies in the photos will prevent a hat string from bursting and a monocle from jumping out of your eye. The tattooed ladies have not lost their fascinating magic even after such a long time.

You can find more fascinating, inspiring and weird pictures of tattoos here:

Thumbnails: © Pinterest / vintag.es © Pinterest / Laura Butcher

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